Connect with us

Broadband's Impact

FCC Officials Outline Plans for $100 Million in Funding for Rural Broadband Experiments

Published

on

WASHINGTON, July 29, 2014 – In a webinar on Thursday, July 17, the Fiber to the Home Council hosted a webinar with Federal Communications Commission officials on a $100 million fund for expanding broadband capabilities to rural communities. FCC officials encouraged companies to apply for the funds, but also cautioning them of the heavy commitment.

The FCC voted at its July 11 monthly meeting to authorize the experiments, and applicants have until Oct. 14 to bid for funding. The $100 million will be split into three categories, said Jonathan Chambers, Chief of the FCC’s Office of Strategic Planning & Policy Analysis. About $75 million will be used for testing networks that service plans at 25 Megabit per second downloads and 5 Mbps uploads. Another $15 million will go to testing delivery service at 10 Mbps down/1 Mbps upload speeds in high cost areas. The remaining $10 million will go to 10 Mbps down/1 Mbps upload service in remote rural areas.

The experiment will allow the FCC to test its reverse auction mechanism for Phase II of the Connect America Fund, and to better see where interest for high-speed broadband is expressed and by whom.

As a rule, Chambers said the FCC will not discriminate between types of services: “In terms of the expression of interest we received, we got ranges of projects in the hundreds of thousands and hundreds of millions of dollars. We wanted to ensure we get some diversity in the projects.”

The key is cost effectiveness, he added.

“We’re just going to select the most cost-effective project first, and then the second-most cost effective, and keep selecting until we’ve used up the $75 million, and the [follow the] same process for the $15 [and $10] million,” Chambers said. “As long as people meet the performance criteria…there’s no beauty contest. There’s no, ‘we value one type of service more than another.’ It’s going to be run as a reverse auction. Low bid wins.”

Limits will be placed on how much funding certain projects can bid for so that “several winners” are chosen, Chambers said. For example, projects in the high performance bracket are limited to $20 million. A percentage ranking system will determine which bids are most cost effective. Once entities are selected, support will be granted annually over a ten year period and the grunt work of building out or upgrading networks should ensue quickly.

“People should not be reluctant because they have a smaller project or a different type of project at all in terms of filing and participating in the program,” FTTH Council’s Counsel Tom Cohen said. “Don’t say, ‘they’re only going to do two projects.’”

Only price capped carriers in areas eligible for Phase II of the Connect America Fund can participate in the experiments, added Carol Mattey, Deputy Bureau Chief of the FCC. Funds will be distributed on a census block-by-block basis, added Chambers, to ensure “the fairest comparative measure.”

To make the process easier, companies don’t have to be eligible telecommunications carriers at the time of entering their bid, Mattey said. If they’re announced as winners in the public notice, however, then they must seek a designation as such an entity.

But while “the FCC is making it relatively easy to submit an application,” Cohen told applicants: “you better have your homework and due diligence work in your back pocket. Once you’re selected, you undertake a real obligation to do this. You don’t want to be in default. There are accountability measures the commission has to have so you need to keep that in mind.”

To secure the FCC’s dispersed fundings, companies need to obtain a letter of credit from eligible banks, as was done with the Mobility Fund, Mattey said. If performance failures are observed, the FCC “will draw on the letter of credit and recoup the funding.”

The build-out requirements once a bid has won are largely the same as those for Phase II of Connect America, Mattey added. Each company has three years to build out to 85 percent of locations, and to the rest by five years. Companies that already plans set in motion can opt for an accelerated disbursement of funding if they can commit upfront to meeting deployment of broadband to 25 percent of their area within 15 months. In exchange, 30 percent of funding will be delivered upfront.

In conjunction with the experiment, Chambers concluded by saying that the FCC is also undergoing a proceeding on potentially raising the definition of high-speed broadband. Currently, the FCC defines it at 4 Mbps. But it is considering the prospect of raising it to 10 Mbps, and perhaps even beyond that, he said.

 

Broadband's Impact

Technology Policy Institute Introduces Data Index to Help Identify Connectivity-Deprived Areas

The Broadband Connectivity Index uses multiple datasets to try to get a better understanding of well- and under-connected areas in the U.S.

Published

on

Scott Wallsten is president and senior fellow at the Technology Policy Institute

WASHINGTON, September 16, 2021 – The Technology Policy Institute introduced Thursday a broadband data index that it said could help policymakers study areas across the country with inadequate connectivity.

The TPI said the Broadband Connectivity Index uses multiple broadband datasets to compare overall connectivity “objectively and consistently across any geographic areas.” It said it will be adding it soon into its TPI Broadband Map.

The BCI uses a “machine learning principal components analysis” to take into account the share of households that can access fixed speeds the federal standard of 25 Megabits per second download and 3 Mbps upload and 100/25 – which is calculated based on the Federal Communications Commission’s Form 477 data with the American Community Survey – while also using download speed data from Ookla, Microsoft data for share of households with 25/3, and the share of households with a broadband subscription, which comes from the American Community Survey.

The BCI has a range of zero to 10, where zero is the worst connected and 10 is the best. It found that Falls Church, Virginia was the county with the highest score with the following characteristic: 99 percent of households have access to at least 100/25, 100 percent of households connect to Microsoft services at 25/3, the average fixed download speed is 243 Mbps in Ookla in the second quarter of this year, and 94 percent of households have a fixed internet connection.

Meanwhile, the worst-connected county is Echols County in Georgia. None of the population has access to a fixed connection of 25/3, which doesn’t include satellite connectivity, three percent connect to Microsoft’s servers at 25/3, the average download speed is 7 Mbps, and only 47 percent of households have an internet connection. It notes that service providers won $3.6 million out of the $9.2-billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to provide service in this county.

“Policymakers could use this index to identify areas that require a closer look. Perhaps any county below, say, the fifth percentile, for example, would be places to spend effort trying to understand,” the TPI said.

“We don’t claim that this index is the perfect indicator of connectivity, or even the best one we can create,” TPI added. “In some cases, it might magnify errors, particularly if multiple datasets include errors in the same area.

“We’re still fine-tuning it to reduce error to the extent possible and ensure the index truly captures useful information. Still, this preliminary exercise shows that it is possible to obtain new information on connectivity with existing datasets rather than relying only on future, extremely expensive data.”

Continue Reading

Broadband's Impact

New Report Recommends Broadening Universal Service Fund to Include Broadband Revenues

A Mattey Consulting report finds broadband revenues can help sustain the fund used to connect rural and low-income Americans.

Published

on

Carol Mattey of Mattey Consulting LLC

WASHINGTON, September 14, 2021— Former deputy chief of the Federal Communications Commission Carol Mattey released a study on Tuesday recommending the agency reform the Universal Service Fund to incorporate a broad range of revenue sources, including from broadband.

According to the report by Mattey’s consulting firm Mattey Consulting LLC, revenues from “broadband internet access services that are increasingly used by Americans today should contribute to the USF programs that support the expansion of such services to all,” it said. “This will better reflect the value of broadband internet access service in today’s marketplace for both consumers and businesses.”

Mattey notes that sources of funding for the USF, which are primarily from voice revenues and supports expanding broadband to low-income Americans and remote regions, has been shrinking, thus putting the fund in jeopardy. The contribution percent reached a historic high at 33.4 percent in the second quarter this year, and decreased slightly after that, though Mattey suggested it could soar as high as 40 percent in the coming years.

“This situation is unsustainable and jeopardizes the universal broadband connectivity mission for our nation without immediate FCC reform,” Mattey states in her report, “To ensure the enduring value of the USF program and America’s connectivity goals, we must have a smart and substantive conversation about the program’s future.”

According to Mattey’s data, the assessed sources (primarily voice) of income will only continue to shrink over the coming years, while unassessed sources will continue to grow. Mattey’s report was conducted in conjunction with INCOMPAS, NTCA: The Rural Broadband Association, and the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition.

“It is time for the FCC to take action, and to move away from the worst option of all – the status quo – that is jeopardizing the USF which is critical to connecting our nation,” the report said.

John Windhausen, executive director of SHLB, echoed the sentiments expressed by Mattey in her report, “We simply must put the USF funding mechanism on a more stable and sustainable path,” he said, “[in order to] strengthen our national commitment to broadband equity for all.”

Mattey report uniform with current recommendations

Mattey’s research is generally in line with proponents of change to the USF. Some have recommended that the fund draw from general broadband revenues, while others have said general taxation would provide a longer lasting solution. Even FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr suggested that Big Tech be forced to contribute to the system it benefits from, which the acting chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said is an “intriguing” idea.

The FCC instituted the USF in 1997 as a part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The fund was designed to encourage the development of telecom infrastructure across the U.S.—dispensing billions of dollars every year to advance the goal of universal connectivity. It does so through four programs: the Connect America Fund, Lifeline, the rural health care program, and E-Rate.

These constituent programs address specific areas related for broadband. For example, the E-Rate program is primarily concerned with ensuring that schools and libraries are sufficiently equipped with internet and technology assistance to serve their students and communities. All of these programs derive their funding from the USF.

Continue Reading

Digital Inclusion

Outreach ‘Most Valuable Thing’ for Emergency Broadband Benefit Program: Rosenworcel

FCC Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel said EBB will benefit tremendously from local outreach efforts.

Published

on

Internet Innovation Alliance Co-Chair Kim Keenan

WASHINGTON, September 13, 2021 – The head of the Federal Communications Commission said Monday that a drawback of the legislation that ushered in the $3.2-billion Emergency Broadband Benefit program is that it did not include specific funding for outreach.

“There was no funding to help a lot of these non-profit and local organizations around the country get the word out [about the program],” Jessica Rosenworcel said during an event hosted by the Internet Innovation Alliance about the broadband affordability divide. “And I know that it would get the word out faster if we had that opportunity.”

The program, which launched in May and provides broadband subsidies of $50 and $75 to qualifying low-income households, has so-far seen an uptake of roughly 5.5 million households. The program was a product of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

“We gotta get those trusted local actors speaking about it because me preaching has its limitations and reaching out to people who are trusted in their communities to get the word out – that is the single most valuable thing we can do,” Rosenworcel said.

She said the FCC has 32,000 partners and has held more than 300 events with members of Congress, tribal leaders, national and local organizations, and educational institutions to that end.

“Anyone who’s interested, we’ll work with you,” she said.

EBB successes found in its mobile friendliness, language inclusion

Rosenworcel also preached the benefits of a mobile application-first approach with the program’s application that is making it accessible to large swaths of the population. “I think, frankly, every application for every program with the government should be mobile-first because we have populations, like the LatinX population, that over index on smartphone use for internet access.

“We gotta make is as easy as possible for people to do this,” she said.

She also noted that the program is has been translated into 13 languages, furthering its accessibility.

“We have work to do,” Rosenworcel added. “We’re not at 100 percent for anyone, and I don’t think we can stop until we get there.”

Continue Reading

Recent

Signup for Broadband Breakfast

Get twice-weekly Breakfast Media news alerts.
* = required field

Trending